Engineering plants that can beat the heat • Earth.com

Engineering plants that can beat the heat

06-19-2022

Today’s Video of the Day from Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology reveals how scientists can modify common crops like soybean, rice, and wheat to protect them from heat stress.

“We need to double crop production by 2050 to feed a growing global population, and not only are we not on track to do that, but climate change is further complicating things,” said Amanda Cavanagh, a lecturer at the University of Essex.

The study is part of Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE), an international research project that aims to develop food crops that turn the sun’s energy into food more efficiently.

“Using an engineering approach we designed multiple alternative metabolic pathways to photorespiration. Testing them in the field showed increases in productivity which led Amanda to significantly move the project forward by showing our engineered plants can withstand pretty extreme temperature stress,” said study co-author and RIPE researcher Paul South. 

“As the climate changes and temperature stresses increase the pressure on our global food supply, farmers will need every tool available including engineering approaches like the synthetic biology used here to maintain safe and productive harvests.”

The experts tested plants modified to have more efficient photorespiration to see if they were better adapted to warmer temperatures. 

The team found that the engineered plants produced 26 percent more biomass than the wild-type plants exposed to the same temperatures, and had 15 percent less yield loss under the higher temperatures.

Video Credit: Amanda Nguyen/University of Illinois

By Chrissy Sexton, Earth.com Staff Writer

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